Re: [ox-en] Re: Graham Seaman * The Two Economies; Or: Why the washing machine question is the wrong question
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2003 12:27:50 +0200
Hi Graham and all!
2 weeks (18 days) ago Graham Seaman wrote:
I'm not sure
how well this works, but I sometimes think of it schematically as:
1. Guilds - knowledge is split vertically; ie. all guild members should
know everything about their mystery, from raw material to taking to
market, but nothing about the other guilds. Legal ownership of knowledge
is also vertical.
2. Capitalism: knowledge is split horizontally; ie. workers potentially
know 'everything' about their stage of the production process (so that a
marketing person could market any product, a machine operator could
operate a machine anywhere, a programmer could program anywhere, but
no-one could work in all stages of a particular industry). Similarly,
knowledge is owned horizontally: in spite of the ideology, in practice
important patents are owned by big companies who trade them around; the
ownership of ideas is largely limited to one layer.
I see what you mean. Indeed an interesting look at it.
3. Oekonux: ?
Well, one of the aspects of vertical / horizontal approach, that it
was not allowed and/or feasible to move in the other dimension. It's
forbidden or people don't have enough spare time / energy to engage in
the dimension they are not already engaged in.
If there is no such limitations any more and if self-unfolding rules
(sic! ;-) ) I'd expect that it is at your personal option which kind
of knowledge / abilities you want. So I guess both dimensions would
What the guilds could not do was cope with the increasing number of
journeymen with no hope of becoming masters in their own guilds. In
the big cities desperate journeymen began to abandon their own trades
and set up as small manufacturers. These small manufacturers, though
persecuted, managed to survive outside the guild system and the
mediaeval hierarchy of rights and obligations, and in spite of the
many caught by guild inspectors and fined or even imprisoned, by the
mid-17th century parts of London were dominated by them. Since they
were outside the guild system their employees were not apprentices in
the old sense, but workers for a wage: this was already a fragment of
a new mode of production.
I'd like to highlight that the journeymen have neither been the top
nor the bottom class in their society. They have been in the second
rank if you like. Aren't there more examples where the (interests of
the) second rank brought about fundamental change? Does this allow for
the conclusion that the second rank is the moving force in history?
I was trying to sneak in a rather different argument there (and one with
no definite connection with free software). The quote above sounds
'marxist' but in fact goes against the standard marxist approaches to
English history - which tends to see capitalism emerging from an odd
combination of the accumulation of capital in trade and the creation of
the new manufactures completely outside the guild-dominated cities. That
then leaves them with the problems of where the English revolution came
from, as neither of those groups had any significant involvement in it,
and of why feudalism reached a dead end (they concentrate on changes in
the rural economy as the driving force, not the guilds).
I'm not saying those journeymen created capitalism in the sense of being
physically or financially ancestors of the later real capitalists; but
that they had the ideas and the vision which made a political basis for
capitalism possible - and that those ideas came at least partly from the
experience of being trapped in a non-working and collapsing system, the
old guild system, and working out an alternative in practice. Maybe
there's a historian on the list who can tell me if this is either silly or
But if you want to generalise from that particular historical point to
say that 'the second rank are always the moving force', then a) I'd like
I'd really, really, really like to know more about the collapse of the
Roman Empire (even if this would involve reading a book ;-) ). Well,
after all the second rank did not manage to set up a new global type
of civilization at this time - though I already know, that the
non-Romans - which AFAIK were in some sense in the second rank because
they were not Roman civilians - played a major role at the end of the
No I don't have more examples at hand. But I have another point
underlining this idea: The first rank has something to loose in any
system - particularly it's first rank. So they are not interested in a
fundamental change of any kind (though some of them make it into at
least the second rank of the new system - think of the feudal
aristocracy which often went to the military when capitalism arose).
Also the first rank has the power to keep its state as long as
The second rank is in a different situation. They have something to
win - namely the first rank. Also, they are among the typical victims
of the first rank while it is ensuring its own position - especially
during a crisis. So they are already loosing something. That was the
point you made about the journeymen. On the other hand they have a
considerable amount of power so - mostly on a very practical basis -
they *can* become important in a new sector.
and b) I'd like to know why, when in the past changes
led by this 'second rank' have always led to the 'bottom ranks' being
screwed in new ways, things should be any different this time round?
Yes, they definitely should. My hope is, that this time it is
counterproductive for *everyone* to screw *anyone*. This directly
follows from "Self-unfolding of the single person as the prerequisite
of all and vice versa." I'd say: If this sentence is the root of a
culture there would be virtually no more screwing of anyone. Of course
material and informational abundance is a prerequisite for that. Oh
gosh, this sounds very much like Marx ;-) .
Mit Freien Grüßen